The MINI One proves that entry-level models deserve love too.
The MINI One is now a far more palatable ownership proposition
The script with the MINI to date has been quite simple. Whichever model you chose from the entry-level First right through to the fire-breathing Works editions, you were guaranteed a sparkling drive. The second generation ‘New New’ MINI has grown up a little. Does this mean that more power is needed to make the chassis shine? We took the One and put it to the test.
Today’s MINI One uses a 98bhp 1.6-litre engine which offers a useful 3bhp power advantage over the old unit. Using BMW-sourced Valvetronic variable valve control, it’s a very efficient engine. Torque is up too, the One now capable of a respectable 153Nm, and emissions and fuel economy are superior. Where the old One managed 49.6mpg, the latest car is good for 52.3mpg – a significant improvement in percentage terms. This rises to 55.4mpg in the Minimalist version. All these figures are for the three-door Hatch version but they’re not much different with the Clubman estate and Convertible variants that you can also choose in ‘One’ trim.
Of these, the Clubman is probably the most interesting. It’s a five-door car but the doors aren’t exactly where you’d expect them to be. It’s business as usual at the front but access to the rear seating is through a single door on the right-hand side. Hinged on its rearmost edge so that it opens in the opposite direction to the front doors, it’s positioned on the right-hand side of the Clubman and there’s no equivalent on the left. At the back, there’s more access fun and games. The Clubman employs a pair of side-hinged doors reminiscent of the old Mini Traveller. These are a key design feature of the car and the one that does most to differentiate Clubman from MINI. They feature cut-outs for the rear light clusters that mirror those in the bonnet. Separate wipers and the doors are also framed in the same colour as the roof trim.
Economy was one of the key criticisms of the first generation MINI. No matter which model you opted for – even the diesel – fuel consumption was never particularly great. Go for the supercharged Cooper S and it would drink like a junior supercar. While this might be expected when running such a quick model, feedback from One owners reported a number of gripes about their car’s thirst, especially around town. That issue now looks to be well and truly resolved. Performance is brisk, the One Hatch getting to 60mph in 10.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 116mph, power being deployed by a six-speed manual gearbox. Emissions of 127g/km are only average for the standard version, but can drop to 119g/km if you pay extra for the Minimalist version.
Electromechanical power-assisted steering (EPAS) debuted on this version of the MINI and aims to reduce parking effort (a factor which turned off a proportion of mainly female potential customers) but still retain pinpoint accuracy at speed. Pricing remains competitive with buyers often specifying their cars to their own tastes and spending a good deal more, indulging themselves with options like DSC+ stability control.
More spacious and easier to drive, with more efficient engines and a more customisable interior, the second generation MINI range is an impressive achievement. It takes a keen eye to spot the bodywork differences over the MK1 version, despite this car and its progenitor sharing not one piece of sheet metal. The good news for British industry is that the car will continue to be built at what is now known as Plant Oxford (Cowley to us old timers), this factory’s output now at 240,000 cars per year, more than double what it was when the first MINIs rolled off its lines in 2001. The body panels and sub assemblies hail from Plant Swindon and the BMW-designed engines roll out of the Hams Hall plant in the Midlands. Despite the German bankrolling, this MINI wears its Union Flags with pride.
It’s inside the MINI that more obvious improvements have been wrought. Gone are those indicators that felt like you were snapping a biro every time you used them. The centrally-mounted speedometer now houses entertainment and, if specified, navigation functions. The slimmed-down centre console offers more space in the footwells while the key has been replaced by a round signal sensor that slots next to the steering wheel. A start/stop button is also fitted as standard.
One of the most intriguing, albeit frivolous, aspects of the interior is the optional lights package which features custom ambient illumination. A panel of toggle switches in the roof lining allows the driver to switch the colours of the lights in said roof lining, the door storage pockets and the grab handle recesses. These can be changed at any time in five stages from warm orange to sporting blue, depending on personal taste - quite mad, but undeniably funky. Rear seat space, a big grumble amongst MINI customers, has been improved with recessed knee cut-outs in the fabric-trimmed front seat backs.
The only possible gripe MINI one owners can have is that the price of this car has crept steadily upwards. Aside from that, there’s really not a lot to dislike. Better built, more spacious and with a more economical and clean engine, the One proves that when it comes to MINIs there’s really no need to target the top of the range.